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Boiling Point: The Prop Cup is Half Empty

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Wait, that’s incorrect. It’s either entirely empty or completely full. Full of bullshit. What’s got me boiling over this week is shitty props. One of my biggest pet peeves in film and television is the “cup.” I’m just talking about your average beverage container. Coffee mug, soda cup, glass of water, tea cup, red cup, to-go travel mug. Whatever it is, it’s always empty. Is it really that hard to fill it up with some water? Give it some weight?

Did you ever notice a character with a “full” cup of something, swinging it around like it was weightless? Making big gestures without ever spilling a drop? Holding a mug to their lips with nothing going in? What the hell, man. I see this everywhere. From Law & Order to The Devil Wears Prada to basically everything else. Why can’t the prop guy, aka Property Master, just put a few ounces of water in the cup? I really don’t know why this drives me so nuts, I feel like a weirdo, but it is driving me crazy. Cups full of liquid have real weight to them. People just hefting them around like they’re empty looks like they’re just hefting around empty cups! And I’m right out of the scene.

While I’m ragging on props, geeze man, what do these guys do sometimes? I’d hate to see their budgets on some of these Sci-Fi gems. PVC piping with Christmas lights on it or High Tech Laser? You decide. Nerf gun painted black or righteous weapon of freedom? Give me a break. Let me also clue you in, lazy prop department: airsoft guns are cool, but they are not real. They don’t look real. The weight is all wrong. The sizes are often wrong. Never use an airsoft gun, especially in place of something like a shotgun. They’re tiny. Everyone who has ever been to China Town has seen that exact model on the outside sale table for $12.99 and we all haggled him down to $10 flat. When people whip around pistols, you can tell if they’re not heavy enough. Cheap plastic is not the same as steel. Damn.

I’m definitely a big supporter of horror, but just because Costumes & More! went out of business doesn’t mean that rubber rats and fake body parts are suddenly realistic. Better to shoot around the prop and ignore it then put something in there that is going to make the audience laugh at your abysmal attempt. When the prop shark in Jaws sucked, what did they do? Filmed around it. Tried not to show it. Made it work. You don’t have to show every little bit and if it’s important enough to be on screen, it’s important enough to get right.

Am I alone on this one? Someone please tell me empty cups annoys the shit out of you. Tell me you see tiny plastic guns and stifle a chuckle. I’ll forgive some cheap props if it at least looks like you tried. Inventing a bunch of Sci Fi weaponry is tough, got it. But renting an accurate replica of a gun rather than passing off your nephew’s toy collection is not. Give it some effort and for the love of cinema put some water in those cups or I’ll never be under my boiling point again.

Robert Fure is many things: horror expert, ruggedly handsome man of the world, witty prose composer, and writer of his own biography page. Beneath the bravado is a scared little boy, ready to grow into an awesome man and make lies about a scared little boy inside of him. Wait a minute...

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